In the first episode of a two-part series, Matt Eaton explains how fishing a chod rig isn’t a ‘chuck it and chance it’ method, and how you can improve its efficacy in a multitude of fishing situations.
Few things in angling are revolutionary. However, once in a while something comes along that has a huge impact, not just in terms of results, but on one’s approach. One such development in carp angling has been the chod rig. The setup has evolved from Frank Warwick’s silt rig, followed by Nigel Sharp and Terry Hearn’s development and then Jim Shelley’s incarnation of the presentation.
My fishing has become more observation oriented and as a result the chod rig allows me to fish stealthily
Some see it as a ‘chuck it and chance it’ rig while others recognise that it is one of the most effective ways of fishing in weedy conditions. My view is that, far from being just another rig, it represents a whole way of fishing. It’s as much a departure as is floater fishing, zigging or stalking and, to get the best from it, a specific approach is advantageous.
Can you guarantee presentation in this weed?
As with any form of fishing there can be a fine line between getting it right and getting it wrong, and there is a whole lot more to it than merely tying one up and lobbing it out. I see chod fishing as a mindset, a whole style of angling and far more than just a presentation or a rig.
It’s been said that it is overused, which may be true on some venues; however, I meet many anglers who, having given them a go, have no confidence in chods and no longer use them. I believe that they are the ones viewing it merely as an alternative presentation and aren’t changing things in order to maximise on the rig’s benefits. Casting style, line lay and baiting will determine how well the hook bait is presented and have an effect upon the chances of success, while a whole host of aspects will load the odds in favour of converting pick-ups to fish in the net.
Even commercially available pop-ups are super-buoyant these days.
Although I don’t use it to the exclusion of all else it has certainly formed the mainstay of my fishing over the past six or so years. I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t perfect for every situation but, such is my confidence in the chod, I need to have a reason not to use it rather that it being the other way round.
I think that part of its success is down to the fact that it almost always keeps the hook bait accessible to a feeding carp. Most rigs, if they don’t land right owing to a tangle, landing in weed and suchlike are susceptible to being compromised, whereas a chod will be presented in the vast majority of cases. How many times have you had fish all over you and it’s looking like a bite is a formality, but nothing materialises? There’s every chance that the rig had landed badly and it simply couldn’t be picked up. I’m sure that a chod is actually fishing for a greater percentage of the time.
My whole approach has altered since adopting its use and I’ve found it has freed me up. The marker rod has been made redundant as I don’t have to identify clean ground on which to fish. When clear areas are at a premium and difficult to find there can be a temptation to stay put just because you’ve found a couple of lovely clean gravel spots where the lead rattles in, despite the fact that you’ve not seen a fish on them. With the shackles removed I am more mobile, reacting to the movements of the carp in the knowledge that I will be able to achieve an effective and accessible presentation no matter what the make-up of the lake bed.
I cast to where I see signs of fish showing, bubbling or even clouding up. The chod rig is perfect for this application
My fishing has become more observation oriented and a great deal simpler. I’m not looking for that depression in a bar or deep, silty gulley that everyone else casts to. I’m casting to where I see shows, bubblers, plumes of silt or any other sign of carp. Trying to second guess them by targeting spots that fish are expected to visit and feed on can pay off but it’s not as productive as fishing where they actually are. There is no doubt that the rig offers fewer advantages to the trapper and it is the hunter that will benefit most from its use.
No longer restricted to casting to the nearest clear spot to the fish, hoping that they will move over me, I can present a hook bait on top of them. Imagine that carp are evident at 60 yards range but the only clear areas are to be found 40 yards out. An hour thrashing the water with the marker rod to establish where you can fish could, at best, put the carp on edge or, worse, unsettle them to the extent that they move on. Regardless of that, though, how much better is it to be able to fish in among them, where they want to be, than to try and encourage them to feed in a nearby area? The rig’s ability to present in weed means that, provided it is safe, it really doesn’t matter what the bottom is like, and if that’s where they are – that’s where I fish.
I use a very specific style of casting when chod fishing. Well, to be more accurate it’s the bit immediately after casting that matters, and getting it wrong can lead to the rig sitting less than perfectly. It is essential to have the swivel sat up against the top bead to ensure that the leadcore doesn’t loop up off the bottom. While the technique becomes second nature over time, it can take some getting used to. I’ve carried out a few tuitions on this aspect, witnessing how alien it is to some and it can take a bit of practice for it to become routine.
With the lead in flight and nearing its destination the rod is held up at 90 degrees to the surface. As soon as the line hits the clip, or is trapped by a finger on the spool, the tip is lowered to horizontal, in line with the speed of the lead to cushion its impact. As soon as it splashes down the tip is swept up, again to 90 degrees. This has the effect of bringing the lead and rig together. The rod is lowered once more, while remaining in contact with the lead until it touches down.
Done this way the lead drops more vertically as opposed to swinging in and the buoyancy of the pop-up allows the leadcore to slide through the ring swivel until it is stopped by the top bead, enabling the whole lot to settle down in a straight line.
This entire process, once you are used to it, is easy enough; however, it gets more difficult in the shallows. In anything less than three feet deep quick reactions need to be employed to sweep the rod up prior to the lead’s descent. Throw darkness into the equation, when you’re relying on your hearing, and it’s a whole lot harder again. Light travels a lot quicker than sound and so, by the time the splash reaches your ears, the lead may well have hit bottom. If it’s dark and shallow I try to pre-empt the lead’s contact with the surface and start bringing the rod up a fraction before.
Yes I know it sounds complex when written down but in practice it isn’t so arduous and, in time, becomes an automatic process. I’ll concede that in some situations you can get away without going through the procedure, but it is necessary if you want to be sure that you’ve got it bang on each and every time.
One of the chod’s major advantages is that it is suited to presenting over a variety of different lake beds. Although it will be okay on clean ground that isn’t where it is at its best. Soft silt, choddy ground and especially weed are where it excels so I’m not looking for a donk. If the lead touches bottom, no matter how softly, it’s fishing and I’m content to leave it. When fishing in weed I will have a few exploratory casts to try and hit an area where the weed is lower, but it’s not a major concern. The hook is going to be settled on weed well off the bottom and well away from the lead so it is largely immaterial what it has landed on.
I’ve caught more than enough big carp with the bait sat on the weed in midwater to know they will feed at all levels of the water column. I’ve even caught them when the lead hasn’t even touched bottom. So long as it drops a few feet through the water it will be presented. On one occasion I’d noticed fish cruising above the weed and deliberately fished on top of it. I, as well as the gulls, could see my pop-up no more than a foot or two below the surface but it was where the fish were and that night was picked up by the lake’s biggest common.
Having felt the lead down you’ll be left with a good amount of slack line. By lifting the tip high I attempt to sink it from the far side back towards me. Once a portion of this is beneath the surface I’m comfortable putting a little tension on it to completely sink it but at no stage should it be tightened up. Tightening the line carries the risk, particularly if high weed is between you and the spot, of lifting the end of the leader off the deck. Now if this happens your pop-up, being buoyant, is going to rise up to the top bead where it will be suspended and look completely unnatural. Worse still you could end up with the rig being pulled into weed, fouling the hook point and rendering it useless.
It can be tricky, especially in a crosswind or when a strong undertow is affecting the water, but tightening up and then slackening off is not the answer. As soon as the line is taut the damage is done and no amount of paying off line will repair a compromised presentation. Less-efficient bite indication caused by a bow in the line is preferable to a rig that has zero chance of being picked up, so keep it slack.
This is the basis of how I approach my chod fishing and hopefully I’ve convinced some of you to use it, especially if you’re on a weed-infested venue. In the second part I’ll go into detail on the type of baiting I employ and some of the things that can be done to maximise the chances of landing what is hooked, along with a couple of tweaks to make life easier.
The lake’s big common caught a foot or two below the surface with a chod presented in the fronds of weed.